To Beloved President Corazon C. Aquino

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chronicle
August 10, 2014

A Tribute

I humbly offer this personal tribute to President Corazon C. Aquino, an exemplary Filipino political leader and human being who brought great honor to our country and make us proud to be Filipinos:

For her heroic sacrifice in the long struggle against authoritarian rule, together with her husband, Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., the foremost leader and martyr in that struggle;

For leading the nation in challenging the dictator as the united opposition candidate in the “snap presidential election” of 1986 and in the people power revolt known as “the EDSA Revolution” that ended the dictatorship, and for restoring constitutional democracy under the 1987 Constitution—whose writing she sponsored and whose ratification campaign she led;

For her transforming leadership that put love of God, country and people, democracy, national unity, and moral and ethical governance as the highest values and norms of citizenship and public service;

For resisting and surviving several coup attempts by some military and opposition leaders to topple her presidency and restore the authoritarian rule they had enjoyed during the Marcos dictatorship;

For showing through her presidency and in her civic work in retirement, and even in her illness and in her death in 2009, that countless people across the land and abroad appreciate the basic values she stood for and honor her for it.

In striving for democracy and development, the Filipino people appreciate Corazon C. Aquino’s sterling character and the specific political values and virtues she promoted: democracy, a just and humane society, the rule of law, peace, national unity, respect for human rights, honesty, truth, transparency, equality, and justice.

My synthesis of her achievements. On the whole her  foremost achievements as a political leader are:

(1) her leadership in overthrowing President Ferdinand E. Marcos and his entrenched authoritarian regime of over 13 years (October 1972-February 1986), following his democratic presidency of eight years, a regime that had set back the nation’s political and socio-economic development;

(2) her leadership in starting to rebuild the still fragile political institutions of democracy during her six-year tenure;

(3) her leadership in defeating the seven coup attempts to overthrow her presidency, thus saving the reviving constitutional democracy she headed, and preventing the return of authoritarianism under military leadership;

(4) her leadership in ensuring a generally peaceful, orderly, and honest election that made possible the democratic transfer of political power by the election of her chosen successor, President Fidel V. Ramos, thus blocking the political heirs of Marcos from recapturing the presidency.

To this may be added President Aquino’s overall leadership in transforming the military, weakening the Com­munist insurgency, and restarting the process of national economic recovery. In all this, she may have passed “the test of [her] leadership function [by her] contribution to change, measured by purpose drawn from collective mo­tives and values” (MacGregor Burns, 1979): her own, those of other leaders, and those of the people who were opposed to Marcos and united in rebuilding the shattered democracy and the ruined economy. Although she did not, and could not, have brought about the achievements alone, she intended and willed these changes and had them realized. Contrary to the opinions of many critics, she was purposeful and determined in realizing her own vision of what should be done. Not accidentally, she became one of the world’s popular symbols and leading proponents of democracy.

In pointing out the leadership of Cory Aquino in the downfall of Marcos, the restoration of democracy, the defeat of the coup attempts of military rebels, and the democratic transition from Aquino to Ramos, we are not denying the people’s crucial support. By definition, leadership exists as a relationship be­tween the leader, other leaders, and many followers. The people provided Aquino with the crucial support she needed, but she led them in the process.

More on Cory’s moral power. Over the next several years after her presidency (1986-1992), Cory suffered a debilitating cancer. When she succumbed in 2009, a grieving nation favored her son, Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III, over his rivals to become president in 2010, to succeed  President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Noynoy was recognized as the son of her heroic parents, Ninoy and Cory, not as a distinguished leader. But P-Noy is doing his utmost to deserve his election by his “bosses” and her parent’s tremendous moral legacy

Such were Cory’s moral power and the people’s affection for her as an admirable and suffering leader, a gracious woman, and a devout Catholic. And such was the nation’s memory of Ninoy’s martyrdom as a defender of democracy against Ferdinand Marcos.

My precious personal memory of President Cory. On Ambassador Emmanuel Pelaez’ request, President Cory wrote the United Nations University in Tokyo [where I was working] to enable me to help her government panel led by Pelaez. The aim was to persuade Nur Misuari (Moro National Liberation Front) and Conrado Balweg (Cordillera People’s Liberation Army) to agree to end their rebellion and observe a permanent truce with the government. Maning Pelaez’ consummate leadership made the government succeed. And I greatly enjoyed the President’s gracious, informal, and friendly manner in Pelaez’ meetings with her which I attended.

When I was U.P. president, President Cory made me a member of her Cabinet committee on the negotiations with the U.S. to extend its use of the Subic Naval Base. Actually, I was against the ratification by our Senate of the proposed extension of the U.S.-Philippine Military Bases Treaty. Then President Cory appointed me Chairman of the Legislative-Executive Military Bases Council to prepare the plan for the conversion of all our military bases to peaceful and beneficial uses. I was very pleased and challenged to prepare the conversion plan that has now greatly succeeded as shown by the development of Fort Bonifacio, Clark Air Base, and Subic Naval Base.

Moreover, President Cory accepted my invitation for her to inaugurate the various faculty housing apartments we built for the U.P. faculty. She gave us funds to put up the third wing of our College of Public Administration and she supported the establishment of our Center for Leadership, Citizenship, and Democracy. She personally advised me to add “Democracy” to the name of the Center.

More than this, late in 1991 she would invite me to her Cabinet meeting so I could present my plan for the U.P. Public Lectures on the Philippine Presidency to assess what she and her administration had achieved from 1986 to 1992. She said the idea was “brilliant.” Indeed, she inaugurated the Lectures shortly before her term ended in 1992 and U.P. was able to publish several books to record the achievements of her presidency and our other restored democratic institutions. President Fidel V. Ramos and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have cooperated with the U.P. Public Lectures on the Philippine Presidency and Administration as an official act of accountability to the people for their leadership and governance.

What great and memorable personal satisfaction, joy, and accomplishment President Cory made possible for U.P. and for me as U.P. president and an occasional adviser to our loveable president.

My email is pepevabueva@gmail.com

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